Former UFC Lightweight Champ Benson Henderson Has Tough Road Back To The Top

By Rick LaFitte
Benson Henderson
Benny Sieu – USA TODAY Sports

Former UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson’s injury news isn’t serious as there is no structural damage to his elbow so he can once again resume with training. Henderson lost the belt via 1st round submission at UFC 164 in Milwaukee against Anthony Pettis and is obviously chomping at the bit to work his way back up the ladder again. The loss spoiled his chance to surpass B.J. Penn with a record fourth successful defense at the 155 pound weight class.

Henderson though, will have to take it easy in the first couple of weeks back as part of the rehabilitation process. The road back to the top won’t be an easy one, as there are a number of other title contenders who undoubtedly will be in “Smooth’s” way. T.J. Grant deservedly will be getting his title shot against Pettis, but the No. 1 contender will have to wait until early 2014 to get that chance. Pettis sustained a knee injury during the Henderson fight and is sidelined seven to eight weeks before he can commence serious training.

Another obstacle would be the Jose Aldo SUPERFIGHT option. UFC President Dana White has indicated that if Pettis has a successful defense against Grant that the featherweight champ could be next. Pettis and Aldo were to have met at UFC 163 in Brazil, but the fight didn’t materialize due to a Pettis injury. The UFC has also let it be known that Gilbert Melendez could be in the title hunt as well if he defeats Diego Sanchez at UFC 166 in October. The former Strikeforce champ lost a razor thin decision to Henderson in their hotly contested title fight at UFC on Fox 7.

With those factors being weighed in, Henderson is going to have to look impressive upon his return and can’t afford another stumble. A solid option for Henderson on the road back could be somebody like Josh Thomson.  The top-5 contender turned in one of the best performances of his career in blasting out Nate Diaz in two rounds at UFC on FOX 7. Another option could be Rafael dos Anjos who made it five straight wins with an impressive decision victory over Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 27. The Brazilian established himself as a significant player at 155 pounds with that high profile victory.

Henderson clearly will have some attractive matchups upon his return, but it’s clear that a third fight with Pettis could be quite a ways off. Henderson has failed in both efforts against “Showtime”, and the last defeat was much more decisive than the first. That’s never a good sign in trying to make a convincing argument that you deserve another title shot against a guy who’s had your number.

Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports

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